vgdivision: (logic fail)
[personal profile] vgdivision
(Disclaimer: The PPC was originally created by Jay and Acacia. “Further” (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6404116/1/Further) was originally written by Draco’sFictitiousWifey. Avatar: The Last Airbender and all associated properties belong to Michael Dante DiMartino and Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Gremlin, Xericka, Aiden, and Teyala the Nursery worker belong to me. The following story contains suggestive imagery and bad language.)

Xericka emerged from the response center bathroom with a tiger-striped towel bundled up in her arms. “I did warn you beforehand that ducking would be the best course of action,” she said. “Had you deigned to actually watch the DVDs with me last week instead of getting blitzed on Bleepka and falling asleep halfway through the second episode, you would have been aware of the myriad hazards of that continuum.”

Gremlin growled as she took the towel. Her eyes flashed as electrical sparks danced in her pupils. The overall effect, which would have otherwise been quite chilling, was ruined by the bright red slush covering her face. It is hard to be properly intimidating when cherry-flavored ice is dripping down your cleavage.

“It wasn’t really my thing,” the metahuman grumbled as she began mopping off her face. “The main characters were irritating as hell and I really don’t give a damn about high school. That’s kinda why I dropped out back in Gotham.”

Xericka sat down on the armrest of the ratty sofa taking up much of the response center. “I was under the impression that you left school to both find an outlet for your powers and to escape the social constraints of an upper-middle class upbringing.”

Gremlin paused in mid-face-wipe. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“I do confess to finding a small measure of satisfaction in your discomfort. How were you able to tell?”

“You tend to get really wordy when you’re in a good mood,” Gremlin said as she resumed toweling herself off. The towel now looked as if someone had used it to stifle a rather nasty nosebleed. “It was kind of a tip-off when you dropped the ‘deigned’ bomb. You only use that one when you’re smirking on the inside.”

Xericka shrugged. “I would normally not bother with schadenfreude, but I chose to indulge myself only because in any other continuum I would have been the one of us splattered with the local equivalent of a cherry slushie.”

Gremlin tossed the towel back through the open bathroom door. There was a soft damp thud as it landed in the agent’s shared laundry basket. “True enough, I suppose.”

WAAAAAAAAHH, WUH WUH WAAAAAAAAH

Gremlin closed her eyes and snapped her fingers, causing the crying console to fall into silence. “Back to the grind, I guess,” she remarked as Xericka stood up and walked over to the blinking console screen. “It’s kinda weird that the console didn’t give us some ironic musical sting like it normally does.”

Xericka’s hand paused an inch away from the console. “It is strange,” she murmured. “Almost out of character, even.”

“Out of character?” Gremlin brightened up a little. “You want me to get the user’s manual and the candles?”

“I doubt the console needs an exorcism.” Xericka pressed a few buttons on the console. Words began to spill across the screen. “I’m sure there is a logical explan… a… tion…” Her sentence sputtered to a halt as her voice trailed off. She had the same slack-jawed, glassy-eyed expression normally seen on the faces of underperforming college students during finals week.

Gremlin looked first at her catatonic partner then over at the console screen. Her interest had been piqued. A badfic summary actually reducing the Nobody to a state of stunned speechlessness was almost unheard of.

“Let’s see…” the metahuman muttered as she skimmed through the displayed report. “Avatar: The Last Airbender continuum – the cartoon, thank the Maker – with Zuko and Azula as the main characters. They’re not paired together, so that’s another blessing. Doesn’t seem too… oh.”

“Then you see it too,” Xericka finally growled, snapping out of her daze.

“Well yeah, it’s kinda hard to miss the word ‘MPREG’ written in bold underlined letters. Huh.” Gremlin leaned a little closer to the screen to get a better look at the details of the badfic. “Hmm. Doesn’t look like we’ll need the debugger since the birth happens right away. Plus, it looks like Zuko’s the only one really OOC. Maybe this won’t be so bad!”

Xericka shot a glare at her partner. “Are you in all seriousness attempting to convince me that watching the laws of biology and logic be turned upside down will not be so bad?”

“Oh come on, Xerry! We’ve been through bad slash, bad het, incest, selfcest, rape-as-love, and some of the crackiest of crack pairings. What makes mpreg so much worse than all of that?”

As soon as the words had left her mouth, Gremlin winced. Rhetorical questions were to Xericka what three-legged mice were to hungry cats. She either did not understand or did not care that people were not actually supposed to answer such questions. The phrase ‘is the sky blue’ could end up sparking an extended lecture on color spectrums in the atmosphere.

Gremlin could hear the Nobody taking a deep breath. This one was going to be one hell of a rant. Xericka would probably complain about the inherent physical and social implications surrounding mpreg all throughout the badfic. Missions were never what one might call fun, but being groused at non-stop about the specific physical requirements of carrying human babies to term would make things a very special shade of terrible.

“Actually, you’re right!” she exclaimed quickly. “It just dawned on me how bad mpreg is. All those guys having impossible butt babies! Ha! Crazy stuff.”

“It just… dawned on you?”

“Yep! It was just like POOF, right into my brain. I totally get where you’re coming from. Anyway, the mission! Why don’t I get the portal set up while you take care of the disguises?”

Xericka stared at the metahuman for a moment before walking over to the main disguise generator. “Right,” she murmured.

Gremlin bit her lip in frustration. Xericka was not buying this sudden change of heart. The threat of an extended and biologically explicit tirade was still imminent. Well, there was at least one surefire way Gremlin knew of to jostle her partner’s state of mind. She would catch hell for it later – some subtle vengeance delivered via shadowy portal when least expected, in all likelihood – but it was almost always worth it in the short run.

“While you’re at it,” Gremlin said, her voice dropping into a suggestive whisper, “why don’t you synthesize yourself something cute to wear? Maybe something that shows a little midriff. There’s no reason we shouldn’t find some way of keeping ourselves entertained, if you catch my drift.” She reached over and swatted Xericka’s rump. If that failed to seal the deal, then nothing would.

Xericka froze. Her face briefly flushed pink before it drained itself of all color whatsoever. This tableau lasted for a few seconds, after which Xericka silently resumed programming the disguise generator.

Gremlin allowed herself a little triumphant grin. The crisis had been averted. For now.

* * *


Princess Azula swept through the halls of the Fire Nation Royal Palace with a retinue of Dai Li agents marching along in her wake. Servants and soldiers kowtowed and averted their eyes as the silent phalanx paraded past them. That was why anyone who might have noticed did not when two shorter Dai Li agents stepped out from behind a pillar and began following the rest.

“Gremlin,” one of the new arrivals whispered. The other one said nothing, but instead stared straight ahead at the princess. “Gremlin!”

“Huh? What? What is it?”

“I wanted to make sure you were capable of remaining focused on the task at hand,” Xericka sighed. “If you cannot handle being so close to one of your lust objects, then I would recommend that you return to the RC.”

“I’m okay.” Gremlin peeked back over at Azula. “I can handle it. No problems here. No problems at all.”

“You are drooling.” Xericka shook her head as Gremlin quickly wiped the sleeve of her robe across her chin. “There are times when I find myself astounded at your apparently endless capabilities for perverse thought. Some people might say that being able to become aroused even when surrounded by unspeakable horrors demonstrates the strength of your mental fortitude.”

Gremlin smiled and nodded. “Well thanks, Xerry!”

“I am not one of those people.”

“Oh.”

The corridor ended in a pair of golden doors – Zuko’s room, according to the text. There were painful screams coming from within. Azula pushed the doors open and strode into the room alone. Gremlin and Xericka quickly shifted through the now-still crowd of Dai Li before darting through the doors just before they swung shut.

The two Bad Slashers had arrived just in time to catch a rather bewildering scene. Zuko was lying on his bed with his legs splayed apart, screaming for all his worth. A nervous midwife was staring at the area between his legs as if it were the most fascinating sight in the world. That may have indeed been the case considering what the canonically male Zuko was in the middle of doing.

“I would facepalm right now,” Xericka said coldly as Zuko screamed again, “but I have insufficient hands necessary to counter the sheer amount of fail present in this scene.”

“Would you like to borrow mine?” Gremlin asked.

“As if you would be content to leave your hands on my face. I would make an attempt at disdainful laughter were I not currently attempting to focus upon loathing this story with every existence of my non-being.”

Zuko became aware of an intense burning that flared up at his opening and attempted to draw back from it, drawing his legs closer together and whimpering.

Gremlin took on a pained look. “Err, what opening are we talking about exactly, here? Guys only have two and neither seems like a good choice in this case.”

“The text did not specify,” Xericka replied. She nodded towards where the midwife was standing. “Medical will want to know the specifics of what happened to him when we bring him in. One of us needs to take a closer look.”

The agents stood in silence for a moment before Gremlin reached into one of the pockets hidden inside her robe. “Heads or tails?” she asked as she pulled out a large silver coin.

Xericka shot her partner a disbelieving look. “Are you seriously suggesting that we decide who should undertake this mission critical task by flipping a coin?”

“Yep! What, you’ve got a better idea?”

“I do.” Xericka leaned over so that her face was only a few inches from Gremlin’s. “You will go and look as repayment for smacking my rear earlier. If you do not, then I shall portal you somewhere terrible while you sleep. Does that sound like an acceptable arrangement?”

“Not even remotely.”

“Too bad. Now go.” Xericka flapped her hands in a shooing motion.

Gremlin shrugged as she inched her way around Azula towards the midwife. She supposed she got off lucky, really. This was hardly the worst punishment Xericka could have given her. She could be quite vindictive if the moment called for it.

She thought about pausing long enough to smell the princess’s hair, but decided against it. Xericka was uptight about that sort of thing. No one paid her any heed as she stepped in next to the midwife and joined her in staring at Zuko’s groin.

Her jaw dropped. Her eyes went wide as she recoiled away from the edge of Zuko’s bed.

“What was it?” Xericka asked. She caught Gremlin by the arms and dragged her behind a pillar away from the canonical characters. “What exactly did you see? Gremlin? Gremlin!”

There was no response. Gremlin stared through Xericka as if there was no one there at all. Blank horror was the only expression on her face. Whatever she saw between Zuko’s legs had essentially reached into her head and switched her off.

Xericka had seen that expression before. A Bad Slasher in one of the response centers down the corridor from hers had snapped a few weeks prior. It was not a violent breakdown. There had not been any running through the halls with a flamethrower. Her partner simply discovered her staring at a blank patch of wall after a bad Kingdom Hearts mission. She was just... gone.

The Nobody had watched from the door to her RC as some of the FicPsych nurses had led the agent in question away. The look on the snapped agent's face was almost identical to the one on Gremlin’s now.

Bleepka, Xericka thought with a sudden sense of urgency. She needs a lot of Bleepka immediately. Xericka began to rifle through Gremlin’s robes, looking for the hip flask that she carried into every mission.

The part of her psyche that was able to remain disconnected from most of the horrors she encountered expressed relief that Gremlin was catatonic for this process. Had she been able to respond, she would have no doubt expressed a great deal of salacious comments about taking off her clothes to aid in the search or what have you. There would have perhaps been an invitation to find a private room together. It would have been most intolerable.

Xericka hushed her brain into silence. Now was not the time for analysis. She was far too busy trying to prevent her partner from going completely insane.

After a bit more awkward searching through layers of clothing, Xericka’s fingers finally brushed across the oblong shape of Gremlin’s flask. The Nobody fished it out of her partner’s disguise, unscrewed the top, and poured as much of the liquid inside between Gremlin’s lips as she could.

For a moment, there was no response. Then, finally, the metaphorical lights went back on. Gremlin coughed and sputtered on the Bleepka for a moment before snatching the flask out of Xericka’s hand and draining the entire thing.

“Gremlin!” Xericka exclaimed. “I was very – you had me – you are feeling better, I take it?”

A shiver ran up Gremlin’s spine as the Bleepka did its miraculous work. There was still fright evident on her face, but it was quickly fading. “I’d never seen anything like that before,” she said. “I mean, I’ve seen some pretty screwed-up shit, but that was just…”

Before Xericka could react, Gremlin had drawn her into a tight embrace. She could feel the metahuman’s body shivering through her robes.

“Thank you, Xer,” Gremlin whispered, her voice slightly muffled by Xericka’s shoulder.

After a few seconds of confusion, Xericka hesitantly returned the hug, awkwardly draping her arms over her partner's shoulders. “You are welcome, Gremlin. Had I known how it would affect you, I would have gone myself. I did not mean for this to happen.”

“Hey, I don’t think either of us could have anticipated… whatever the hell that was.” She shifted slightly in Xericka's arms. A few seconds passed before a weak smile appeared on Gremlin’s face. “Heh. Had I known that threats to my well-being would get you all hot and bothered, I would have started doing risky stuff a long time ago.”

“And that is enough of that,” Xericka said with a sigh as she pried herself out of Gremlin’s grasp. “Besides, we have a mission to complete. I believe that Zuko has finally given birth to his violation of proper biology.”

Gremlin stuck her tongue out at her partner. She was rapidly becoming her old self again. “Spoilsport.”

They turned their attention back to the scene. Zuko was holding out his hands for the black-haired, golden-eyed baby boy bundled up in the midwife’s arms.

"I thought I told you not to show him the kid." Both Zuko and the midwife turned to see Azula leaning against the doorway, "oh well, I guess your life isn't that important."

“You know, inappropriate word choice and poor grammar aside, that does sound like something Azula would say,” Gremlin said.

A CAD appeared in Xericka’s hands with a flash of darkness. She leveled it at the princess and pressed a few buttons. “You are correct. Azula is only seventeen point seven percent out of character.” She swung the device in Zuko’s direction and frowned. “Eighty one percent out of character and rising.”

Azula snapped her fingers, which summoned the Dai Li en mass. They quickly subdued the midwife and snatched up the child, which they handed over to the princess. This turn of events brought Zuko to his trembling feet. He managed to take down one Dai Li agent with a plume of fire before the rest forced him to his knees.

“He is surprisingly active for someone who has just pushed a baby out of an unspecified orifice,” Xericka commented. “It is a wonder that he has not injured himself yet.”

Gremlin nudged her partner and pointed at Zuko’s thigh, where a steady stream of blood flowed. “Spoke too soon, Xerry,” she said. “Between this and… that other thing, Medical is gonna be pissed.” She paused in thought. “Hey, does the fic ever mention who the other father is?”

“Not by name. The only clues are that he is a peasant and that he is not from the Fire Nation.” Xericka sneered. “Azula talks about the baby being a filthy half-blood, as if the four divisions in the Airbender universe were primarily racial rather than nationalistic.”

“So then the father could be almost anyone in the series, then.”

“Indeed. The two most likely choices would be either Sokka or Jet, despite the latter’s ancillary function in regards to the plot as a whole. Aang would be an unlikely choice, as he most often serves in the submissive role in Zuko/Aang slashfics.”

Gremlin glanced over at her partner. “And you know all this how?”

“I have done my research. My sometimes very unpleasant research.”

“Huh. Personally, my money’s on Toph as the father.”

“…What.”

“Oh yeah. Don’t let the size fool you.” Gremlin tapped the side of her nose conspiratorially. “Toph has her way with whomever she wants, whenever she wants.”

Xericka stared at her partner for a moment. “Are you absolutely certain that you are all right?”

“Yep! And I’ll be feeling much better once we exorcise this puppy. Speaking of which, it’s about that time. Any thoughts on how we get past both Azula and the Dai Li?”

Xericka looked back at the unfolding scene. Azula was watching her now weeping brother with disgust. “A strong, wide burst from the neuralyzer should be sufficient to keep everyone from acting against us while we perform the exorcism,” she said as she summoned two pairs of sunglasses and the neuralyzer from the darkness. She handed one pair to Gremlin, who wiped them on her sleeve before slipping them on.

“Sounds good. You grab the kid, I’ll get the wraith.”

“I am not sure that is the best idea. I have never held a—”

“I’m not taking any argument on this one.” Gremlin grinned and cracked her knuckles in an anticipatory fashion. “I owe that thing some payback for making me look at… whatever that was. I’m ready when you are.”

The two agents stepped out from behind the pillar just as Azula turned to march out of her brother’s room. “Everyone look here!” Xericka shouted as she raised the neuralyzer as high as she could.

FLASH

Xericka lowered her hand and examined the room. Everyone dumbly stared back. It was if she had driven a car with its high beams on into an entire herd of deer. She quickly walked over to Azula and, with no small amount of unease, carefully eased the baby from the princess’s stiff grasp.

The baby gurgled and wriggled uncomfortably in Xericka’s arms. The Nobody did her best to make him comfortable as she tried to remember everything she had been told about badfic babies during her very brief Bad Slash training. Unfortunately, there had been more of an emphasis on how to use the debugger rather than things like ‘these types of baby-related sounds are nothing to worry about’ or ‘in order to calm the baby down, show it these specific images.’

“Gremlin?” she called out. “I require assistance with this child!”

“In a second, Xerry,” Gremlin responded as she approached the kneeling Zuko. She slipped the third season DVD set of The Last Airbender out of her sleeve and raised it above her head with a nasty smile. “All right, baby-daddy. In the name of DiMartino, I cast you—”

The metahuman’s decree died in her throat as Zuko suddenly swung his head around to face Gremlin. Well, sort of. While the body was definitely Zuko’s, it was clear from the urple glow coming from his eyes that his mind was no longer in control.

This body is mine!” he snarled. “This story is MINE!

Gremlin leapt to the side just in time to dodge the bolt of flame launched from the possessed prince’s fist. “Xericka! Problem!” she shouted as she dashed back towards her partner.

Xericka turned just in time to see Wraith!Zuko shove away the dazed Dai Li agents surrounding him, his face twisted with rage. She was not able to notice much else, as Gremlin grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her behind the nearest pillar. The baby in Xericka’s arms began to cry as a fireball exploded on the wall several feet away.

“What the hell was that?!” Gremlin exclaimed. She winced as another fireball exploded, this time on the opposite side of the pillar she and Xericka were hiding behind.

“If I had to make a guess,” Xericka said as she rocked the baby in an effort to calm him down, “the most plausible explanation would be that the neuralyzer subdued Zuko’s mind to the point where the wraith was able to fully take over his body.”

Gremlin racked her brain for a suitable comparision. “You mean... like Agnes and Perdita in Carpe Jugulum?”

“Similar to that situation, yes.”

You can’t stop my story! No one can!” the Wraith!Zuko shrieked. There was a flash as another part of the room burst into flames. The baby’s crying grew louder despite Xericka’s best efforts.

Gremlin resisted the urge to peek around the side of the pillar. She had a feeling that doing so would only end up with her getting a facial scar just like Zuko’s, and she was not that much of a fan of his. “Can you shadow walk us to the other side of the room? Maybe we can get the drop on him!”

Xericka shook her head. “I would not want to risk exposing a newborn to the Pathways of Darkness. Besides, we have no ranged weapons and he would likely be able to blast us before we got close enough to physically assault him.”

“It’s not like we’ve got much of a choice here, Xer! The canonicals are going to snap out of their neuralyzed stupor soon, and I’ve got a feeling all hell is going to break loose when they do!”

There was another howl from the thing wearing Zuko’s body. “You cant stop me! The canons, the child, this universe – they will all be mine!

“That’s super!” Gremlin shouted back. She began to gnaw on her lip in nervous thought. “Maybe we could call for backup. Oh! One of us could portal back to the RC and pick up some ranged weapons. We could – Xericka? Xericka, are you even listening to me?”

The Nobody continued to ignore Gremlin. She just continued to stare down at the crying baby in her arms. “The child…” she murmured.

“What about him?” Gremlin asked.

Xericka looked up at Gremlin. “I have a plan,” she said. “But I need you to stay here for right now. Act only when I tell you to act.”

“…Okay, I guess. What’re you planning?”

“This.” Then, to Gremlin’s horror, Xericka stepped out from behind the pillar.

Wraith!Zuko screamed with rage at the sight of the agent holding his child. “GIVE ME MY SON!!!

“No.”

GIVE HIM TO ME OR I WILL KILL YOU!!!

“I sincerely doubt that. Any attack launched at me now could injure or possibly kill him.” Xericka looked down at the baby and began rocking him again. His cries began to subside. “You could perhaps use a concentrated stream of fire to burn my head off, of course, but you would not be able to move fast enough to catch the baby before he hit the ground. Or did you forget that you are currently bleeding from whatever orifice you have redesigned as a birth canal?”

Wraith!Zuko had fallen into an angry silence. His hands, still steaming from the previous attacks, were balled into fists by his sides.

“You know as well as I do that without the baby, there is no story,” Xericka went on. “Without the story, you will die. But you will also die should you allow me to live, as I will exercise my sworn duty as an agent of the PPC and, ahem, exorcise you from the body of Prince Zuko. There is no choice you can make at this point that will not somehow result in your demise. Were I in your place, I would voluntarily leave Zuko’s body so as to avoid being exorcised.” She readjusted the snuffling baby in her arms. “Better on your own terms than ours, I would think.”

You're wrong,” Wraith!Zuko growled. “I can still win! The story is not over!

Xericka took a step towards Wraith!Zuko. “This is your last chance. Fail to accept it and the consequences shall be severe.”

Go to hell, plot protector!

“Very well. I cast you out, mpreg!” she intoned, her voice growing louder. The wraith flinched and took a step backwards. “I cast you out, poor characterization! You have no place here, bastardized biology!”

I won't be—

“Begone from this character forthwith, illogic!” Xericka took another deliberate step forward. “In the name of DiMartino, Konietzko, and Nickelodeon, I banish you!”

The possessed prince held up his hands in supplication. “Don’t do this!” he said, his voice now desperate. “I could give you whatever you want! Money, love, anything!

Xericka suddenly darted to the side. “Gremlin, now!” she shouted.

The wraith had only enough time to blink before a DVD box set, spinning through the air like a Frisbee, caught him right in the middle of the forehead. Zuko’s body jerked violently as the spirit was forced from him.

“Bullseye!” Gremlin exclaimed. She did a victory hip thrust in the direction of the disappearing wisp. “Suck on that one, freakshow!”

There was a happy bubbling noise from the baby. Xericka looked down into his face. A very slight smile played around the corners of her mouth as she reached down with one finger and tickled the baby under his chin.

* * *


Something tugged on the hem of Xericka’s coat. She looked down into the wide-eyed face of a little girl with ginger hair and green eyes. “Yes?” she asked.

“You’ve got blue hair,” the little girl said matter-of-factly. She swayed back and forth on the balls of her feet.

“That is correct.”

“Are you a Mary Sue? My mommy says a lot of Sues have funny hair colors.”

Xericka paused for a moment before pointing to her flash patch. “How could I be a Sue if I work for the PPC?”

“You could’ve mugged a real agent and stolen her uniform. My mommy says Mary Sues can be very tricky.”

“That’s stupid! You’re stupid!” a passing boy interjected. “She can’t be a Sue! Sues all have big boobies!” The boy pointed at Xericka’s torso. “She doesn’t have any boobies! That means she’s a Gary Stu, duh!”

After crossing her arms in front of her rather sparse chest, Xericka looked around until she spotted an indigo-skinned asari Nursery worker on the other side of the room. “Ah, excuse me?” she said loudly. “I am in need of assistance!”

“Miss Teyala! Miss Teyala!” the girl exclaimed as the Nursery worker came over. “Lookit, Sven and me found a Gary Stu!”

A smile appeared on Teyala's face. “Well done, my little shining stars!” she said as she knelt down. “Why don’t we go get some juice to celebrate? You can tell me how you captured such a dangerous creature on the way.”

The children cheered as they took hold of the Nursery worker’s hands. She winked at Xericka before leading the two youngsters away.

“There you are! How is it that the only Nobody in the entire organization can be so hard to find?”

Xericka looked over her shoulder to see Gremlin walking over. “I apologize for my leaving you with Zuko,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the child was attended to as soon as possible. The nursery workers are making sure he is all right.”

“Hey, it’s cool. I understand.” Gremlin chuckled. “You should’ve seen Doc Fitzgerald’s face when I explained Zuko’s condition to him, though. Absolutely priceless.”

They were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Teyala the Nursery worker had returned bearing a sheaf of papers on a clipboard. “I have the adoption papers for you, Agent Xericka,” she said. “Once you fill them out, you just need to bring them back to me.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Gremlin said as she waved her hands in a ‘stop right there’ motion. “Adoption papers?”

“Indeed. Thank you, Teyala.” Xericka nodded in acknowledgement at the asari, who smiled back before returning to her young charges. “I have decided to officially adopt the child we rescued. Before you say anything, Gremlin, you should know that there is no use trying to debate me off of this path. I have already given it considerable thought.”

Gremlin shook her head in bewilderment as Xericka summoned a pen out of the darkness and began to fill out the forms. “But why?”

“I have multiple reasons, but chief among them is that the child was instrumental in helping us complete our mission.” Xericka paused in filling out the forms so as to look directly at her partner. “Without him, the wraith may have been able to do us even greater harm than it already did. He most certainly prevented my destruction during that final confrontation. I feel that the very least I can do to repay him is to ensure that he is brought up well.”

“Oh, come on. That’s a crappy reason and you know it!”

Xericka shrugged as she returned to her paperwork. “As I said, I have multiple reasons. If that does not satisfy you, perhaps one of the others will.”

Gremlin took a step closer to Xericka. “Are you… sympathizing with the kid?” she asked with a conspiratorial waggle of her eyebrows.

“You know very well that I cannot,” the Nobody replied without a flicker of emotion in her face.

“Yeah, sure.” Gremlin rolled her eyes. “Well, if you’re set on adopting the kid, then I’ll support you. Any thoughts on a name?”

“Aiden was my first choice. I am led to believe that it means ‘little fire’ in Celtic, which I felt was appropriate considering his origin.”

“Sounds good to me. What about a last name? I know you don’t have one, but these kinda things are important for humans.”

Xericka flipped over a few pages. “I wrote ‘nil’ in the space provided. I shall leave it up to the Nursery staff as how to interpret that.” She signed the last piece of paper in her usual cramped and simple style. “Complete.”

"Congratulations, mom," Gremlin remarked. A second or two later, her eyes suddenly lit up with delight. "Oh my God, I just realized something. You're totally a MILF now!"

Xericka sighed. "And I am already second-guessing myself regarding this decision. Thank you, Gremlin."

"That's what I'm here for!" Gremlin replied with a grin as she wound one arm around Xericka's waist.

"Hands off, if you please."

"Aw..."

AUTHOR"S NOTE - I recently altered the story slightly. There are a few new lines here and there, and the ending bit has been changed a great deal. I think the new version rings a bit better. -- PoorCynic, aka "The George Lucas of PPC missions"

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October 2016

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